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French Customs: From the Front Door to the Living Room

Our friend, Mark, who’s lived in Paris for many years described to me the subtleties of getting from the front door to the living room when one is invited to dinner in Paris. He mentioned during a recent visit:

“I was a little surprised when Chris tried to rush us to sit down in the living room. Usually in France, people spend a little time in the front hallway (that is, if you have a front hall, or just inside the door).”

When I thought about it, that made sense. Maybe Americans have the habit of heading as fast as possible for a chair, but in France, when you enter someone’s private residence, there’s a sense of crossing a threshold that is quite tremendous – you’ve been invited into the inner sanctum. So, perhaps, this lingering at the threshold, just inside the ‘open sesame’ is a way of giving thanks for the invitation.